Sleep Diaries: “How can I keep my energy levels up with a new baby?”

“How can I stop grinding my teeth at night?” A sleep expert answers your questions

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Welcome to Stylist’s Sleep Diaries, where we’re taking a deep-dive into one of the most important (and elusive) factors in our day-to-day lives: sleep. To help us understand more about it, we’re inviting women to track their bedtime routines over a five-day period – and presenting these diaries to sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for analysis.  

In this week’s Sleep Diaries, a 50-year-old sports centre manager wonders if there’s an easy cure for her bruxism. Could singing be the answer?

A little about me:

Age: 50

Occupation: sports centre manager

Number of hours sleep you get each night: seven 

Number of hours sleep you wish you got each night: eight

Any officially diagnosed sleep-related problems: I grind my teeth (bruxism) and wear a mouthguard at night

Do you measure your sleep in some way (e.g. using your phone or wearable): no, I make sure to leave my phone downstairs every night

How much water you drink on average per day: approximately 1.5 litres

How much exercise I do on average per week: 2-3 times a week, on average, and I walk the dogs for at least 1.5 hours a day

Day 1

I wake up easily when my alarm goes off at 6.30am; I must have slept well last night. I have breakfast (tea, juice, and a slice of toast) almost immediately, before walking the dogs for 40 minutes or so.

When I get back, I hop in the shower and get washed up, then leave for work at 8.30am. At lunchtime, I grab a bite and take the dogs for another 45-minute walk. When I finish work for the day at 6.20pm, I head home, get changed and take the dogs to agility training.

Afterwards, I grab a quick dinner (half a pizza and a cup of tea, followed up by a couple of biscuits), and then watch a bit of TV. I’m in bed by 10.30pm, where I watch a bit more telly before drifting off just after 11pm. It’s not a good night’s sleep; I keep waking up and rolling over, then I’m up for a wee at 1.30am, and then I’m up periodically through the night until morning.

Senior couple walking their pets during Covid-19, wearing face marks.
Sleep Diaries: I take the dogs out for 2-3 walks each day.

Day 2

I’m tired when my alarm goes off at 6.30am, but I still get up and have breakfast pretty quickly (again, it’s tea, juice, and a slice of toast). After taking the dogs for their 40-minute walk, I head home to do some ironing. As it’s my morning off, I pop to the hairdressers at 9am for a trim and, once that’s done, I go out for an hour-long bike ride.

Once I’ve put the bike away, I take the dogs out for their midday walk, before having lunch and a shower and then head to work for 1pm.

I get home at 8.15pm, and tuck into some leftover chicken and chips (which I wash down with an elderflower presse). Then, I watch some TV with a cup of rooibos, before going upstairs to read in bed for a bit. I’m asleep by 11pm.

Day 3

I sleep deeply and wake up naturally at 5.30am, thanks to some very noisy birds. As it’s so early, I let myself doze off again until my alarm goes off an hour later.

Again, I eat a breakfast of tea, juice, and toast (I really must vary what I have for breakfast!), and then take the dogs before going to work at 8.30am. As ever, I walk the dogs for 45 minutes at lunchtime, then head back to work until just before 6pm.

When I get home, I take the dogs out for a bit, then have dinner (roasted vegetables, burger, roast potatoes and homemade baked beans). We sit down at 7.45pm and watch some TV, before drinking a glass of wine and falling asleep during The Great British Sewing Bee!

I wake up with a headache, so take two paracetamols before going up to bed at 10.30pm. While I’m asleep by 11pm, I’m up again at 2am with an even worse headache. There’s no point in taking more tablets as I know they don’t work, so I do my best to drift back off, but find it almost impossible.

Woman staying home with flu virus - stock photo
Sleep Diaries: I wake up around 2.30am with a pounding headache.

Day 4

I wake up at 4.30am (it’s surprisingly light at this time in the morning) to go to the loo, where I’m sick. This sometimes happens with these headaches, but it carries on until 6.20am, and I feel awful; I have a sip of tea, and then go back to bed.

After snoozing for a few hours, I wake up at 9.15am. Thankfully, the headache is gone (although I still feel a bit foggy), so I have a shower and go into work for 10.30am.

I get home at 5.15pm to meet our new dog walker for an hour-long trial walk. When we get home, it’s fish and chips for dinner (a rare treat), and I drink some more rooibos tea in front of the TV, along with a couple of biscuits. I head up to bed at 10.30pm and watch a bit more TV there, before drifting off at 11pm.

Day 5

I wake up with the alarm at 6.30am feeling tired. I get up, have my usual breakfast, and take the dogs out for their morning walk at 7.10am.

Once I’ve dropped them back home, I head to the sports centre at 8.30am and basically work through until 5.30pm. Then, I take the dogs out for another hour-long walk, before cooking a dinner of roast vegetables, chicken teriyaki and sliced potatoes (which I wash down with a glass of wine).

I watch TV upstairs as my husband is engrossed in the footy on the main TV. At around 9pm, though, I pop down for a herbal tea and a catch up with him until 10.30pm. I read my book in bed for a bit before nodding off at 11.15pm. 

So, what does it all mean? A sleep expert offers her thoughts

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, sleep expert and professional physiologist, says: “I’m delighted that you leave your phone out of the bedroom at night, and you do generally have some great habits – your dogs certainly keep you fit! I wonder about the headache episode, though; do you get them regularly or was this a one off? Could it be hormonal? It might be worth having your hormone levels checked.

“With regards to the teeth grinding – I get the impression that you are one of life’s eternal optimists, always with a smile on your face. And bruxism, or teeth grinding, can be caused by holding stress in and not expressing oneself.”

    Dr Nerina Ramlakhan Stylist's sleep expert
    Sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan

    Dr Nerina continues: “I have a question for you, then, and I want you to answer it honestly; do you need to let stuff out? And do you need to take some time for yourself to unwind? Listening to music or taking a warm bath might help you to relax, while facial exercises and massage for your jaw – as well as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) – could help to prevent both teeth grinding and headaches.

    “If all else fails, you could take up singing which is really good for bruxism. Not only is it an aerobic exercise, but it also triggers the release of endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals. This boosts your mood and helps you to respond to stress factors in a more positive way, not to mention enhances your sleep patterns.”

    Dr Nerina finishes: “If the grinding continues to prove detrimental, I’d book an appointment with your doctor. Make sure to make them aware of any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated – like those headaches, for example.

    “I hope you feel better soon.”

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    Lead image design: Ami O’Callaghan

    Images: Getty

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    Kayleigh Dray

    Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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